Mar 222012
 

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 10:44-48 (ESV), emphasis mine

In Parts 1, 2 and 3, I have already stated my position: the biblical mode of baptism is immersion, the subjects of baptism are not infants, but disciples alone, and the practice of infant baptism is a violation of the regulative principle of worship. In Part 3 we looked at the issue from the perspective of a biblical ecclesiology. We are never commanded to baptize the unregenerate. The church is not made up of believers and their baptized infants. The church is a family of believers only.[1] “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:8). In the New Covenant, there is no such thing as a mixed community (See Jeremiah 31). The New Covenant is not a renewed Abrahamic covenant. It is not like the Old Covenant. Baptism is not the new circumcision.

Paedo-baptists commonly concur that infant baptism is not explicitly stated in the New Testament, but they will argue that the household baptisms in the book of Acts at least make it possible that infants were baptized along with believing parents. But again, like paedo-baptist Scott Simmons states, “Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that the households of these believers contained no infants and were converted before being baptized.  Therefore, there is no ironclad proof of the practice of infant baptism in these passages.”[2]

I would say that the Scriptural evidence from the household-salvation-baptism passages actually teach credo-Baptism. Let’s look at them quickly. There are five accounts, and they are found in these texts: Acts 10-11 (Cornelius); Acts 16 (Lydia and the Philippian jailer); Acts 18 (Crispus); and 1 Corinthians 1:16 (Stephanas).

Cornelius

Upon closer examination, this text does not teach infant baptism. Peter does preach the Gospel to the whole household, plus many guests, and “all who were listening to the message” and who repented were saved. The text says so explicitly (Acts 10:44 and 11:15). Upon hearing the Word the Holy Spirit fell upon them and led them to repentance and faith. In Acts 10:47, Peter says that he only baptized “those who received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” This corresponds with the day of Pentecost where the Scripture explicitly says that only those who “received his word” were baptized (Acts 2:41).

There is no mention of infants in the household, but only those who were listening to the message. This is obviously something infants cannot do with comprehension. Also, we have no record in the New Testament of paedo-glossalalia. Acts 10:46 says that these new believers spoke in tongues. J.A. Alexander, a paedo-Baptist, concludes that there is no evidence of paedo-Baptism here.

Lydia

The case of Lydia is inconclusive at best. It is clear from the text that God opened her heart “to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.” Here again is clear evidence that saving faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). After this understanding is granted by sovereign grace, she is then baptized along with her household. We know very little about Lydia, except that Paul shared with her and other women at the riverside. We do not know that Lydia was even married or that she had any children. From the text, clearly she was with other adult women, and perhaps they were part of her household. There is no evidence of infant baptism here, but rather believer’s baptism.

The Philippian Jailer

Again, it is clear from Acts 16 that Paul spoke the Word of God to them. The whole house heard the Gospel, were baptized and also rejoiced. The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized upon repentance and belief in Gospel message. Infants cannot do this. Also, when was the last time you saw an infant rejoice? They might cry or smile or giggle a little, but I have never seen an infant rejoicing. Only those that have some comprehension of saving grace can genuinely rejoice. This example cannot be used by paedo-Baptists.

Crispus’ Household

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing Paul, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Here again, baptism is granted to those who have believed, or disciples only. Belief in the Gospel is only reason given in the text for their baptism. There is no evidence given that “covenant children” were also baptized.

Stephanas

1 Corinthians 1:16: “(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” Paul writes this parenthesis referring to a controversy over factionalism. Paul’s statement does not support infant baptism. Fred Malone comments here: “First, it seems they were capable of knowing who baptized them, thus excluding infants. Further, 1 Corinthians 16:15 describes the ‘household of Stephanas’ as persons who devoted themselves for ministry to the saints. Infants, of course, cannot self consciously devote themselves in such a way.”[3] It seems clear that this text is also speaking of disciples only.

In these five examples, there are no explicit hints that infants were baptized along with their parents. In fact, the text argues just the opposite. It was only those who heard the Word and believed (disciples only) who were baptized.

I want to recommend a book that I have found particularly helpful in my understanding of both sides of this issue. It is entitled Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright. Every essay is tremendous, but if you only read one of them, I would direct you to Chapter 4, where Dr. Steve Wellum has written an essay entitled “Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants.” In my humble opinion, that chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I am not endorsing this book because Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Wright are my dear friends, which they are, or because Dr. Wellum taught me Christology in Seminary, but this book is honest and loving and very helpful.

I will conclude here in my discussion of Why I Am A Baptist. I am a Baptist by conviction. It really does mean something to me. I am so thankful for my fellow worshippers at Redeemer Baptist Church. I love you all and I appreciate your kindness to me and my family. I am absolutely committed to the doctrines we hold dear and will defend them and preach them with every fiber of my being. I confess that I am a sinner, in need of daily grace. I confess my ignorance and frailty of mind. But with tears in my eyes, I reaffirm my commitment and my love for you, and that I will earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Bill

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[1] I certainly do believe that God saves children. There is a difference between “infants” and “children”. Infants do not have the capability of understanding the Gospel, but there are cases where children, even at a very young age, do understand the Gospel and God saves them. A great example of this is found in Jonathan Edwards’ A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, where he tells of a four year old girl, Phebe Bartlet, that was granted the gift of salvation in 1735. Of course, Edwards held to infant baptism, in which case I disagree with my hero since I do not find it consistent with New Testament teaching. It is testified that Phebe was still living by 1789 and maintained the character of a true convert. To read more, I refer you to Jonathan Edwards On Revival, published by Banner of Truth.

[2] Scott Simmons, “A Case for Infant Baptism.” The article can be found at this link: http://www.aplacefortruth.org/infant.baptism.

[3] Fred Malone. Baptism of Disciples Alone, p. 125.

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Mar 072012
 

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (emphasis mine)

Acts 11:25-26 (ESV)

From the first two parts, we have learned the importance of a biblical understanding of baptism. What is the mode of baptism? Immersion. “Baptism” always means to dip or immerse. In the New Testament, persons are baptized, or dipped. Baptism never means to sprinkle or pour. Who are the subjects of baptism? Disciples alone. Adhering to the Regulative principle of worship, we find that the Scriptural subjects of baptism are always disciples. Disciples are called Christians. Those that are Christians, or disciples, are only those who have made a profession of faith in Christ alone repented of their sin.

How does this affect our doctrine of the Church? Is a right understanding of Baptism really that important? Once again, with the help of Fred Malone (from one book and an article in another: The Baptism of Disciples Alone and Ministry By His Grace and For His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles), I want to discuss the importance of believer’s baptism for our doctrine of the church. Scripture regulates how the church is to function in the world. Here are some condensed arguments for the importance of believer’s baptism.

1. The New Testament church is repeatedly called “the disciples.” The Church is never called “the disciples and their children.” This is because biblical churches are composed of disciples alone, who are baptized upon their profession of faith. Acts 2:41 – “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

2. The baptism of disciples alone affects evangelism. We must make sure the candidate for baptism knows what it means to be a disciple of Christ beforehand. (Matthew 28:19-20)

3. The church, as an assembly of baptized disciples, demands that the worship and teaching ministry of the church on the Lord’s Day be geared toward disciples rather than “seekers.” The Great Commission requires disciples to be taught all that Christ commanded as the basis of all true spiritual worship (John 4:24). Ministers are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Of course, we still give Gospel appeals, and we long for the new birth to be granted to the lost, but we cannot neglect to teach those who are already disciples.

4. The church as an assembly of baptized believers demands that the priority and autonomy of the local church be emphasized over denominationalism. The local church is the only authorized instrument of Jesus Christ on earth, each with him as Head. Associational connections are voluntary. Associational leaders are servants of the churches and not masters over them.

5. The church as an assembly of baptized believers recognizes the priesthood of all believers as each disciple can come before God through Christ alone. Yet each church must recognize some body of beliefs by which covenant membership and unity can be established.

6. The church as an assembly of baptized believers requires church discipline. The church has the final say in these matters (Matthew 18:15-17). Each disciple needs fellowship, correction and accountability.

7. The church as an assembly of baptized believers requires that worship be regulated by Scripture. We are to worship “in spirit and in truth,” not “in spirit and creativity.” We should practice only those things taught us in Scripture. As was mentioned last time, the baptism of infants is clearly not taught in the New Testament and is a violation of the Regulative Principle of worship.

I confess that my understanding of a biblical ecclesiology was shaped largely by my mentor in Baptist History, Dr. Tom Nettles. His three-volume work called The Baptists, along with his lectures on historic theology and Baptist history, forever changed my life. God raised up Dr. Nettles “for such a time as this” in the Southern Baptist Convention. We needed to get back to our historical roots. Dr. Nettles is most certainly one of the most gracious men I have ever met and yet he is bold as a lion! He taught me the biblical doctrine of a regenerate church membership. Historically, “Baptists rejected infant baptism in the pursuit of a principle of regenerate Church membership.”[1] In the New Testament, never will we find examples of the unregenerate receiving baptism. (In Part 4, I will give my understanding of household baptisms. There is still no evidence in those passages supporting infant baptism.)

Those who accept infant baptism (baptizing the unregenerate), therefore, must say one of two things: either infant baptism is the same as believer’s baptism, or it is different from believer’s baptism. If the two are different, then there are two theologies of baptism, one plain in Scripture and one hidden. If they are the same, then paedo-Baptists must consider infants as believers capable of giving evidence of their belief, or agree that the belief of a substitute is in no way inferior to their own. Either alternative is difficult to prove.[2]

That is a great thought! And I will leave it at that for now. Jesus loves His Church, His disciples! He gave His life for them! It such a privilege to obey Him in baptism, a picture of redemption. Remember: only disciples of Jesus were called Christians!

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[1] Thomas J. Nettles. Baptism and the Ordinances: An essay to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 1997. Pg. 3

[2] Ibid. pg. 3.

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